Kou Kitamura is a fifth grader whose family runs a sporting goods store. One of the regular customers of his family's store is the Tsukishima Batting Center, and so he gets to know the four daughters of the Tsukishima family (Ichiyo, Wakaba, Aoba, and Momiji) very well. Since Kou has spent so much time practicing in their batting cages, he has become a genius hitter, but has no knowledge of any other aspect of baseball. This is in contrast to Aoba, who, despite being a year younger, is an adept pitcher and hitter. Wakaba is a classmate of Kou's, and she seems fully intent on marrying him when she grows up. All seems idyllic in their world, until tragedy strikes. The story then skips ahead to four years later, as Kou has continued the training he began four years ago, but has not played in a baseball game since. As he finally begins playing again, it remains to be seen whether or not he will live up to the expectations of those who know the true talent he has been hiding all this time.
The first volume of manga is one of the very best I've read among all the manga I've read. Adachi does an amazing job of building up the relationship between Koh and Wakaba, showing little details that make you sure they are right for each other, even at a young age. He does an even better job of showing just how jealous Aoba is of all the time Wakaba spends with Koh. Then tragedy strikes.
Adachi's portrayal of all the different reactions from family, friends, and acquaintances is spot-on accurate.
The interplay between the characters often leaves you guessing
about Adachi's final plans for the series, but that's a good thing. As I've read almost everything by Adachi, I was able to guess correctly about how the main characters would end the series, but Adachi did throw a few curves in the middle of the series which left me guessing. The ending was not contrived, however, and it left me feeling satisfied (in stark contrast to how I felt when I finished the "H2" manga).
The artwork shows Adachi's further progression in style beyond his previous works. While remnants of his overall feel from works such as "Nine" and "Touch" still remain, his style has matured quite a lot since then. I still enjoy his soft lines and effective portrayal of emotions and action (including his often-included comedic action).
All of the main characters were very believable, and most of the supporting characters were good as well. The only character who didn't seem to progress or grow much was Senda. While he matured a little as a player, his personality showed little change or maturing from junior high through high school. This is the main reason for the less-than-perfect rating for character.
Overall, I really enjoyed this series, and I've added it to my list of all-time favorites. If you enjoy romantic comedies (with some baseball thrown in for good measure), I highly recommend this series. Even if you don't generally go for sports manga, try this one out and you may very well be surprised and grow to like it. The baseball is used only as a setting for the overarching romance (even though you can tell Adachi really loves his baseball).
Go. Read it now. I think you'll like it.
(edit) Some idiot complained about me revealing something which happens in the FIRST EPISODE, how the main characters deal with that, and me talking about how the main characters have a goal to get to Koushien. Hopefully the review still makes sense, since it now likely doesn't flow as well as it used to. Chalk it up to over-sensitive pansies who think any plot detail is a spoiler.
Adachi Mitsuru is popular for his sports dramas from Touch to H2 to Katsu! Cross Game though is his best work to date. Although some purist may disagree, to me, he learned from the faults of Touch and H2 to create a much more compelling and complete story with Cross Game. I read this from a different point of view (perhaps do to the lost of my sister at a young age) and saw it as more than just a sports drama.
Cross Game may have Baseball as the base of its back ground, however the story is about how the short life and the death
of a young girl affects a community of people. This affect not only drives the characters that knew her in life but also those who fall into the fold of her dream afterwards. Cross Game shows that a life, no matter how short, can have a great impact.
The story itself gets caught in its back ground at times, making it appealing to any sports drama fan. The Baseball itself is well illustrated as you would expect from Adachi who has decades of experience at it, this experience really shows. Yet, while the sports side of it is far from neglected it never loses sight, nor allows you to lose sight of the story that is begins to tell. Cross Game is a master piece in that way, it caters to his core audience while bringing in new readers who may not have been interested in his other works. By that I mean even though she dies you are never brought to far into the baseball aspect to forget Wakaba’s presence and her affect on the story and the other characters. Do to this I by no means see her as just a minor support character but as the driving character, without her there simply is no story.
The art work is vintage Adachi, which to me is a good thing. I also enjoyed his work and, while it has gotten cleaner, it remains true to his style. The story has many faucets and does not get hung up at any point, flowing perfectly through. The overall feel of this manga is one of completeness and a near perfection of Adachi’s story telling. It is one of only two manga that I have given a perfect 10 to date.
If you have never read or watched Cross Game I would strongly recommend that you do. This is without a doubt (at the time of writing this review) my favorite manga and anime, the only story which I have given a perfect 10 for both mediums.
For those who watched the Anime: There are some small details (I.E. Mizuki reading Aoba’s diary before disappearing) that do not get used in the anime. However, the anime is quite faithful to the manga and if you have watched it you will not have missed anything major.
The problem with sports manga is that if you are not very familiar with the sport itself you might not even bother looking into it. I used to have a similar problem and I don't even know what made me open up the first volumes of Touch but I can say that I would never regret that decision. Similar to Touch, Cross Game is a manga that one can enjoy without having any deep knowledge on baseball as the story is not about sports but a young boy trying to find his true feelings while growing up and trying to fulfill the last dream of
his lost childhood love.
The story itself is very similar to Adachi's other works and to be honest it is extremely easy to predict. But as the manga is a romantic slice-of-life in nature the focus is not on the plot but on the relationship of the characters and on how these relationships unfold.
Adachi Mitsuru is a master of storytelling and Cross Game is really easy to read. The author maintains a very smooth flow, keeps a balance between image and text and makes the conversations very easy to follow. He often makes transition between two scenes by putting between them a sentence that can fit into both contexts. His humor is very innocent and the drama has a really powerful impact most of the times.
The character art really brings back the old 80s of Touch. Adachi's drawing of a baseball player's body is very proportional and realistic. He can draw a face bearing infinite amount of expressions however his palette feels a bit limited and he often struggles finding a new face for a new character. His characters might seem to be really simple but his sceneries of the urbanistic Japan is most of the time mesmerizing. I was really surprised to see so much detail in a high school building or a school yard.
As stated before the story is not about baseball but Kitamura Kou's development as the main character. Even though his love for Wakaba feels to be evident, it is hinted throughout the whole story that he also holds feelings for Aoba. Kou's love for Aoba might be not noticeable for the reader but then again there are times when even he doesn't know what he really feels. He cannot realize his true feelings and he is not being honest to Aoba which puts him into a love-hate relationship with her. These restrictions can be only lifted by fulfilling Wakaba's last dream which is Kou's biggest responsibility towards his childhood love. At the end where Aoba says she hates Kou she refers to him being dishonest during all those high school years.
Compared to other Adachi works the author puts a lot of focus into his main character this time. Aoba's development is really neglected and the whole story feels rushed. Mizuki's and Risa's character are ignored. It is as if they were introduced to be huge contenders in a love triangle but the author forgot they existed by the middle of the story. There were many other characters who could have gotten a bit more detailed background like the Azuma brothers, Akane or Mishima Keitarou.
Ultimately I think that Cross Game was an extremely enjoyable read even though the story felt rushed and some of the characters lacked detail. The manga had numerous flaws but Adachi's style and writing could make up for it. This work was a true emotional rollercoaster leaving a huge emotional impact in me. It is a work I can recommend to anyone without any hesitation.
After being recommended I read Cross Game. So how was it? If you want a short answer, it's AWESOME!
I have never been a lover of sports manga/anime before and I don't know a single thing about baseball(well maybe except it is played in Japan and America, ;P). But I am a fan of romance and Cross Game, despite being a sports focused manga, portrays romance in one of the most beautiful ways possible.
The character build-up is wonderful, Aoba's developing feelings for Koh and his subtle love for her is expressed in such a way, that you won't find any moment boring. Mitsuru Adachi's art is
refreshing and his plot doesn't feel to be lagging anywhere.
The side characters(I would prefer to call all of them just characters, though) are also a wonderful addition. Rarely do you read a manga where the side characters don't drag the plot down with their side stories. Azuma, Akaishi, Nakanishi and the rest of the Seishu players add cream to the already enjoyable story. However I felt that the addition of Mizuki was worthless, and he could have been done without. But that's just a speck.
Human emotions, character development and bonds are highly focused in Cross Game and any reader will be bound to find it enjoyable. You are a sports fan? This is definitely for you(and oh, baseball lovers will surely find it delighting and hopefully someone will explain it to me).
But what if you are the shojo fan who loves romances? Well, I am surprised myself, but to tell the truth, this one of the best romantic manga I've read till date. There's no sexualization, no kisses, no holding hands, just plain simple love between two school kids. Just read it, you'll love it, I can vouch for that!
Who are the manga artists that have brought a different level of attention, a different mindset, and a different spin on the genres that have existed since the early days of manga? Well, here's a list of manga artists who stand as one of the best.